I am so excited to talk about this next title, so I'll keep my introduction of it short. I get several emails daily inquiring about our Promotional Services; when I received RS McCoy's email, I had already turned down every single one in my inbox that day until I came to hers. Now before everyone thinks I'm a cruel jerk, I'll let you know I turned down the others because they were not Speculative Fiction titles and, therefore, did not fit the requirements. Which is why Ms. McCoy's email was so darn refreshing; after I read the premise of it, I had to read it!
Lark Davies' mother is dying; there is a cure, however, and a price for it. When a strange man arrives in Lagodon and offers Lark's father coins, Lark realizes quickly that he is the price. He must go willingly to an unknown fate, but he does in hopes that his mother will get well again...of course, he'll never know if his sacrifice was all for naught, as he is sure that he won't be able to return home.
The strange man that 'bought' Lark was Rhorken, a Tracer—someone who seeks out individuals with extra bright sparks. Fortunately for Lark and his mother, Lark's spark is not only exceptionally bright—but it's also rare. Lark is a Reader—someone who can read others' thoughts and hears them as if they were his own.
As Lark accompanies Rhorken to Myxini—a school where children learn to strengthen and control their sparks—he soon realizes he's not the only child amongst the strange man's purchases; there's another. In a horse-drawn cart outside of Lagodon, Lark finds a feeble, malnourished blonde girl; she doesn't talk, but more strangely, he can't read her thoughts. In fact, he can't read Rhorken's thoughts, either, and he begins to wonder if his so-called 'spark' is as bright as Rhorken claims.
Khea, as Lark eventually learns is the girl's name, mysteriously insights his protective nature. He has no explanation for the curious strength of their relationship, and it doesn’t help that she is one of the few people in the world whose thoughts can’t be read. As he struggles to get to the root of their unique bond, Lark begins to unravel more power than even his mentor expected, but in the process makes himself a target to political leaders eager to take control.
Gems for Writers:
World Building. Of course everyone was probably anticipating this Gem, but that doesn't mean it doesn't warrant it. RS McCoy can build a world! And she does a phenomenal job not only creating a believable physical world, but she also populates it with fully-formed characters who have unique cultures and problems that are relatable to our own, politically-driven, messed-up world: starvation, war, betrayal, corruption, survival, and (sometimes) death.
I also have to commend McCoy's use of "History Lesson as Backstory." We learn what we need to about Lark's world at the same time that he does, and this makes the text seem less bogged-down with world-building details. As Lark would say, "Never waste." And McCoy doesn't waste words with unneeded details.
Rules of Majick. This Gem only re-emphasizes the point of the first Gem: This girl can world-build! Her inspiration behind the book's title—that everyone has a spark, a place and specific purpose in the world's plan—is one from which she does not stray. Each spark has exceptional power, but they also have limitations, which are clearly-stated and abided by without fail. Sparks range from Elemental to Natural to Spiritual divisions, and each division can be broken into several different rates. I'm guessing McCoy's pre-writing notes rival my own—and that, I must say, truly excites me.
Point of View. Not many experienced authors can reveal all the details of a story through a single Point of View, but McCoy executes the entire story through the eyes of one single character. Of course, given the character's unique ability as a Reader gives McCoy this advantage, but I have to commend her for even executing THAT without a single hiccup!
Description. Everything from physical scenery to emotions are described with beautiful, un-cliched language; you really feel like you are part of Lark's world. Also, there are no long-winded strings of words weighed down with description. Instead, McCoy delivers only the details that are pertinent at the moment and nothing more. Never waste.
Pebbles to Polish:
Poor Editing. There are several grammatical errors throughout the text, even some contextual ones. That said, however, the impact and ingenuity of the story itself was enough for me to look past the sprinkling of typos and misuse or missing punctuation.
Despite the poor editing, I still give this title 5 stars. I have a feeling this series is going to be a hit! I eagerly await the release of the second installment of the series, Spirits, and I am looking forward to hearing more from both Lark and RS McCoy.
May your own Spark shine,
***Sparks (2013), by RS McCoy. It is available online (see above).
***Per FTC Regulations: I received a free Advance Reading Copy (ARC) from the author and was not compensated in any way, monetarily or otherwise, for this review.